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Because of Maria

I hesitated to write this post. Maria’s story is not mine. And the way I am going to write this feels selfish.

Maria’s story is here… captured in these blogs by her amazing mother, Mary Beth Chapman, and by her family’s friend, Jim Houser. You can read a ‘summary‘ here.

When I heard the news that Maria’s family had lost her, my family and I (minus Josh) were on the bus, headed to Hendersonville, TN, not far from where the Chapmans live. Rod was recording his second major label CD, and we were going down for the vocal sessions. Our good friends were meeting us there to do the background vocals. It was Paige’s first trip on the bus. At the ages of 3 months and 18 months, respectively, it was Kaity and Miranda’s second or third trip. The babies were sleeping as it was around 11pm. It had been a long and exhausting drive, and I was relieved to sit with my laptop and read mindless things.

Of course, what I read was the horrifying news about Maria.

It was a month at least before I could speak about it without crying. I checked Jim’s blog every day. I told random people about the Chapmans. I was not sure why it affected me so personally and deeply. I was a fan of SCC’s (in fact, his was the first concert I ever saw), but I hadn’t bought a new CD in awhile I loved what I’d heard he was doing for adoptions and orphanages, but I’m not sure I even realized the Chapman’s had a adopted a 3rd little girl from China.

I thought a lot about our teenage son, about how hard I am on Josh about some things, about how much I want him to be responsible… He is the same age as Will Franklin, who has had to learn and grow way too much this past year. Obviously, I will take the drama and silliness of my 17 year old before I would ever want him to go through what Will has.

I’ve thought a lot about the make-up of our family, the older kids and the younger ones, the music life (on a much smaller scale, of course). Could those be reasons why I was so ‘involved’ and ‘invested’ in the Chapmans?

I don’t know. I have just come to accept that I am, and that it doesn’t matter why. For whatever reason, for the rest of my life, I will be a different kind of Christian and friend and mommy because of the Chapmans’ story this past year.

And in some way, because of Maria:

– I never, ever back out of my driveway without looking twice. Not ever. (And I know that even so, accidents do happen, and God is the Giver of grace and forgiveness, and in this I also say, may God continue to give peace and love and comfort to the Faustins).

– Sometimes (like just a few minutes ago at Kaity’s naptime), I stop whatever ‘important’ or ‘pressing’ thing I am doing, and I hug my babies, or I savor their smile, or I just let them be so I can watch them.

– And I dance with them no matter how stupid or silly I look.

– Even though I do complain sometimes about the kids not listening, or the house being a mess, or being overworked/overstressed/over-needed… I usually stop myself. Because I know Mary Beth would give anything for more laundry to do and another messy face to wipe.

– I pray for Larry King sometimes, because Caleb Chapman set that example for me.

– I know more than ever that there is a child out there who was or will be born to someone else but who will become part of our family.

– I know that the Lord gives and takes away (Job 1:21), and it may cause us unfathomable pain, and we may never understand why, but He is still holding us and loving us all through those times.

– I have encountered two amazing women who set examples for mommies everywhere in their grace and generosity: Mary Beth and Kerry Hasenbalg.

– I pray for strangers. I cry for them. I care for them. I have always been a little tenderhearted, but Maria has changed my heart. Most of the time I have no idea what I can say to a grieving mother, but I know I am supposed to be there. I am able to leave my feeble but constant compassion for the Spohrs, and I hope a year from their dear Maddie’s departure, their journey will have brought the same healing to them that the Chapman’s has. (And yes, there is still a long journey to go, for they will always miss their babies).

This is not my story. I am just… moved, saddened, touched today to have shared in it. I hope that people who perhaps never knew this story will pray for the Chapmans and families who have lost as they have. I hope someday I get to hug Mary Beth. I hope someday we’ll hear a few of the stories of people radically changed because of the Maria Miracle Fund and all the kindnesses done in her name. I know someday I will watch their amazing reunions in our Heavenly home. And until then, as Mary Beth continually tells us, I will hug my babies tighter.

Stray socks

Last week, with news of Maddie still fresh in my mind, Rod was getting dressed for work and pulled a stray sock of Kaity’s out of his pocket.

While I inwardly cooed at the magic of having children take over our lives, while I confirmed that I would never care about making their toys match our decor as suggested in a Cookie magazine article, I also thought of Maddie’s parents, and how a sock in the pocket might knock them out.

Then I read this post today by Mike, Maddie’s dad. I know I am borderline obsessed with this topic, but really… well, forget it. I have no words.

Picture of Kaity from just now; she sealed the permeance of baby-girldom through our house and our lives.

Eggs, life, miracles

Rod & I just finished dying the eggs. It was kind of a non-event. The girls have colds (sick THREE holidays in a ROW!), so we didn’t even attempt to do this activity together today. This morning, however, we let them hunt for the Resurrection Eggs I made at Moms & More. Each egg contains a symbol from the passion or crucifixion of Jesus, except for the last egg, which is empty like the tomb. Miranda got into the story a little. At the very least, I hope she understands the summary we gave her: Jesus is alive and He loves us!

Tomorrow is such a special day. I am always humbled to the core to think about what my Heavenly Father scarificed for me. I don’t ever feel so loved as when I ponder the thought that had I been the only one, Jesus would have died for me.

Tomorrow is also an anniversary. It will be three years since we confirmed that I was pregnant with Miranda. I’m pretty sure I have told this story to everyone I know, but it’s HERE if you want to catch up. April 12, 2006, was truly a milestone in my life, a turning point, and filled with moments I will always cherish. Even now, as I hold BOTH of my miracle babies, nothing quite compares to the moment that I saw with my own eyes tangible evidence of a miracle-working Lord. He gave me what it was impossible for me to have.

This picture is from July of 2006, one of my favorites of many ‘Pregnant Kel’ pictures. I doubt there has ever been a happier pregnant woman than I was! Those babies brought magic into my life. They sealed our new family together. They showed Rod and me that our marriage was truly blessed with grace and hope. The summer of 2006 was also when Rod embarked upon his ministry as a solo gospel singer. Looking back, it’s CRAZY how different our lives are now. We have traveled many roads, experienced new things, made amazing friends, and been able to see direct and indirect fruit of His work through us. What a gift!

This past month, as I mourned my grandparents and the true close of a chapter in my life, I have had to do a lot of self-reflection. I am blessed with a husband who knows how to admonish me and make me focus on higher things. I am blessed with friends of iron who seek to sharpen me and also encourage me. I have asked God to make me holy, and He has brought some surprising healing and reconciliation to me in just the past two weeks.

Tomorrow is hallowed, and it is a celebration. Everything I have – and I am blessed beyond measure with LOVE, relationships, and the necessities of life – is because of Him. If you don’t get it, if you don’t know Him, seek Him this Easter. He will have wonderful surprises for you, too.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And live is worth the living just because He lives.
– Gloria Gaither

High hopes

‘In a manner of speaking, Sir,  it was the kite that ran away, not the children.’

– the driver(?) in Mary Poppins
I don’t know why this quote struck me… maybe because I think it’s ok to make excuses for kids sometimes, but maybe not so much for everyone else!

9:53 am

I am holding both the babies. Kaity threw up all yesterday evening and all this morning, but thankfully slept through the night. Miranda is much better but not quite herself. It’s almost the end of Sleeping Beauty and my true favorite moment of the film: the first time ‘grown-up Aurora’ hugs her mother. So precious. Naturally, that and the fact that in seven minutes my Papa’s funeral will be started and I am not there nor welcome there is weighing heavily on me. I am grateful when Miranda rises from the couch in her frilly nightgown to dance for me to ‘Once Upon a Dream.’ I am also grateful that Kaity is extra snuggly, although it’s for a nasty reason.

I had such high hopes. There were high hopes for this week after being gone… ‘getting things done,’ catching up with people. There were high hopes for this weekend… an anniversary date tonight, a fun ‘just the 6 of us’ date tomorrow night. It’s the flu that has zapped those hopes, but I don’t know how much of a mood I am in for dates anyway.

Three years ago I had really high hopes, too. I had hopes that the grandparents who came to my brother’s wedding and were kind to me and my husband would finally allow the walls between us to come down. It was clear pretty quickly that the guardians around those walls would not allow it.

But, thanks again Lord, because that’s also the time my 6zillionth hopes of being pregnant started, and they were so, so met…

Anyway, now we’re on to Mary Poppins. She (well, Ms. Julie Andrews) really is so pretty; I don’t just say that to agree with Miranda. She also has one of my favorite voices. It’s so clear and soothing. It makes having to see the movie more often than I’d like more tolerable…  It’s really too bad about the whole 3rd act, also too bad about date night, overnight, playdate, store, bagels, cleaning, flyer order,  stop at Central, working out, phone calls, wash, those poor people in Lousiana losing their homes again, sick grandparents, sick babies, broken plans. Maybe I’m supposed to be using this time for reflection,but I’d rather keep some thoughts far.

My later in the day thoughts are a little brighter.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t include in some ‘but VENGEANCE should be MINE’ kind of moments, or cry a little more to Faith Hill’s “You’re Still Here” (‘I can see you in my baby’s eyes, and I laugh and cry).. But I took Kaykay to the doctor, and she was fine (in manner of not being dehydrated and no longer vomiting; still feverish and lethargic, but we can deal with that). While we were gone, Rod took Miranda to fly her kite for the first time. Then I ate some Burger King comfort food (note: two tacos, 6-piece cheesy tots, and if Randy happens to read this, yes, that’s ‘all I do’ and hence why I still have 20 ‘baby pounds’ to lose) and brought Randa to my parents’ house for the night… partly because that was the ‘plan’ and partly because there is no better symbol of hope than a child, and Mom needs some.

So many things have happened lately to deeply and kind of drastically change my perspective. I don’t mean to be blunt, but isn’t it better that old people die than young? Isn’t it better for my kids to have the flu than to have cancer or be in some awful accident? No, I am not being Pollyanna looking for fake silver linings, but seriously… since things can be worse, I am just pausing to be grateful that they are not.

Kaity is better, sleeping. After she goes to bed for the night, Paige will stay will her and Rod & I will enjoy a very modified version of our date. On a rainy Friday six years ago, we were married in a small office with just Josh, Paige, my parents, and Renee & Matt present. We ate at Aurelio’s, Josh had a friend over, we watched Lilo and Stitch with Paige, and the next day I went scrapbooking. Why should the random 6th anniversary be any less chaotic or any more traditional? But August 8th – the anniversay of our wedding – is coming, so I’ll hold out some high hopes for that.

And on one last note, Deuteronomy 32:35, because if not, I’m going to sin. Big.